Pride Center hosts safe zone training to increase LGBQT awareness

Kathleen Pizzo

The Sacramento State Pride Center will hold a public Safe Zone training Friday in the multicultural center to train people how to be an ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.


Safe zones, or places and people where LGBTQ and allied individuals can talk about their identities without fear, are marked on campus by a sticker earned by attending one of the Safe Zone trainings.


The two hour training this Friday will be facilitated by Aja Johnson, the Panel Coordinator for the Pride Center, Chris Kent, the Administrative Support Coordinator and J’Lissabeth Faughn, the Director of the Pride Center.


The trainings, held anywhere from five to ten times a semester, will go over terms frequently used within the LGBTQ communities, a history of the communities and scenarios, such as what to do when a friend comes out to you.


“We talk about privilege and a little bit about the community and those are things we feel like folks need in order to be safe zones for other folks including the LGBTQ community,” Kent said.


Aja Johnson, a 20-year-old ethnic studies major, said the need for safe zones stems from the survival of homophobia and transphobia on campus. Many students are still experiencing a lot of rejections in their communities and in their families and may need the support of safe zones.


“Obviously at Sac State we have LGBTQ students who are going be working in all different types (of) fields and are going to come up with these issues and need to know how to deal with them and how to help with them,” Johnson said.


Megan Ortanez, a 25-year-old contemporary art history, art sculpture and film studies major, identifies as lesbian and gender queer and frequently attends Pride Center events.


“I think that just because I haven’t experienced uncomfortable instances doesn’t mean others on campus haven’t,” Ortanez said.


This year’s Safe Zone trainings will be different from those in prior years. Previously, there has been a focus on terms and identities, and the Center feels that it is easy to get stuck on those.


This year, the focus on power and privilege has been introduced, more specifically heterosexual and cisgender privileges. These privileges are not shared with the LGBTQ communities and this discussion creates a different approach to creating safe zones on campus.


“That’s the direction we’ve chosen to go with the trainings because you don’t need to be an expert and you don’t need to know every term, but if you know a little something about privilege and your own privilege then you can potentially be a pretty good ally,” Kent said.


She said talking about heterosexual privilege is something a lot of people in the community may understand. Talking about cisgender privilege, the privilege of having a match between the gender assigned at birth and the roles and behaviors considered by society to be appropriate to their sex, is a different story.


“Within the LGBTQ community, transgender individuals face some of the harshest discriminations because it’s something most people don’t understand,” Johnson said.


According to the Pride Center, Safe Zone trainings can be considered a stepping stone towards being a good ally to those within the LGBTQ community.


“To be an ally you don’t have to take the training, there’s a lot of steps you can take to be an ally to a community,” Kent said. “This is a good start, it’s a suggestion.”